Ben Miller talks Raw ratings

By Ben Miller
WWE Monday Night Raw started at 8 p.m. last night.  Thirty minutes later, Raw got obliterated.

The irony is in which network did the obliterating: TNT.  A shade over twelve years after Vince McMahon's pyrrhic vanquishing of WCW, the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers caused TNT to smack Raw down to a number (3.68 million viewers; 1.4 in the demo) that belongs in the pre-Attitude era dark ages.  That TNT is paying the NBA an average of $445 million per year over their current contract is all the more delicious.  If WWE was booked for intelligent adults, Stamford wouldn't be left slurping the gruel of a USA network contract that less than 10% of that.

I submit that more 90's wrestling fans watched the latest vanilla babyface try to vanquish basketball's monster heel last night than watched WWE's flagship wrestling show on the other channel.  Pity, that. 

Back when Vince fashioned himself the big dog (or other d-word) on the block, he'd have never gone down like this.  He'd have put up a fight.  A pay-per-view main event would've been hot-shotted, an old star would've resurfaced or a big angle would've been ready to go.  What did we get last night?  Vince's daughter opening the show.  You'd have had better luck on the Indy moneyline at +315.

This is what happens to a scuffling company.  Everything is hard and you hold on to the wrong things. The NBA makes ten times what WWE makes in U.S. television rights and most weeks Raw out-draws them.  Yet, do you see David Stern sweating a 1.6 for Nuggets vs. Jazz in March?  Does the league book a Heat/Lakers doubleheader every Thursday because they're worried that casual fans will tune out?  No and no.  The NBA knows it has a good product that it believes in.  WWE doesn't.

WWE needs to embrace the natural ebb and flow of serial television.  Not every segment has to have a twist or turn.  That may be good storytelling, but what's great about wrestling is that it's not 100% story.  A scene in "Scandal" that has no surprise or conflict would be left on the cutting room floor.  An NBA rout that plays out as expected will lose some viewers and return the next week.  Which would you rather be?  An episodic drama with a three year half-life or a sport that keeps its place for decades?

Vince & Co. didn't fight last night.  Next time I hope they do.  When July 15 rolls around show the fans that you recognize what they are giving up to watch Raw when the MLB Home Run Derby is on.  Until then show fans that you believe in pro wrestling. 

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